Important Documents

  • Valid passport:  Your passport is issued by your home country and must remain valid while you are in the United States.  If your passport is within six months of expiring and you want to renew your passport while in the U.S., you should contact your country’s embassy for instructions to renew your passport.  For a list of embassies in the U.S., go to, and under “Embassies” choose “Foreign Embassies in Washington D.C”.

  • F-1 Visa:  An F-1 visa is the official sticker that is issued to you, as a nonimmigrant student, by the U.S. Department of State; and is placed on one of the pages in your passport.  A nonimmigrant student must have an F-1 visa to be considered for entry into the U.S.; however, having one does not guarantee you will be allowed in.  When you present your passport with an F-1 visa in it at the border, an immigration officer will determine whether or not you can officially enter the U.S.  You may remain in the U.S. with an expired visa, but if you travel outside the U.S., you must renew the visa before you will be allowed to re-enter. 

  • Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility:  The Form I-20 is a three page document issued by Bethel University which you will need to apply for your F-1 student visa and will be used at the time of entry into the U.S.  Upon arrival in the U.S., an immigration officer will stamp the I-20.  The stamp indicates the length of your authorized stay in the U.S. and should be kept with your passport.  You must keep the original I-20 and any additional I-20 forms that are issued to you.  Be sure that your I-20 is always valid during your stay in the U.S.  If you will not complete your program of studies by the program end date on your Form I-20, you will need to extend your Program End Date on your Form I-20 by contacting the International Student Affairs Coordinator two to three weeks before the Program End Date for instructions on how to extend your program.

  • Evidence of valid immigration status:  The entry stamp placed in your passport at the time of entry into the U.S. indicates your visa status and approved length of stay in the U.S.  F-1 visa status students should have “F-1/D-S” stamped in his/her passport at the port of entry.  D/S indicates that you may stay in the U.S. as long as you are complying with the purpose of your visa status as an F-1 student. 


    You may need to show evidence of your I-94 Arrival/Departure printout when you apply for some services, such as Tennessee driver’s license, Social Security Card, or request benefits from USCIS.  You can print your arrival/departure record at